Silverbacks’ ride with sack of money

Survival For The Finest. Uganda’s James Okello tries to dribble past Nigeria’s power forward Ike Diogu during the humbling 95-69 loss at the Fiba World Cup Qualifiers in Benguela, Angola. PHOTO | FIBA AFRICA 

What you need to know:

  • New High. When the Afrobasket tipped off in Kigali, the Silverbacks meant business and registered their biggest win ever by beating Nigeria 80-68 to qualify for the quarterfinals. 

The national men’s basketball team, Silverbacks will never forget the year 2021. 

It was a year that had everything for them. Top performances, unending cries for funding and inadequate preparations for tournaments that ironically resulted in good results.  The year started with the Silverbacks needing to win a single game to qualify for Afrobasket. Having won two games in the November 2020 window, one win in February would automatically send the Silverbacks to the continental championship.

George Galanopoulos’ charges had beaten Morocco and Cape Verde in Egypt and were just behind Egypt on the log.

The team would, however, have to wait to qualify later in July after their camp registered several Covid-19 cases in Monastir, Tunisia where the second window was held.

Kicked out of the tournament bubble and their games postponed, the Silverbacks left Tunisia in bits.

 No money

Back home, there was no money from the National Council of Sports (NCS) for the team for another trip for qualifiers and this left the team’s chances of going to Afrobasket in Rwanda hanging in balance.

NCS made it clear there was no money for the team to travel to Morocco and Cape Verde for the remaining games of the qualifiers. 

They won and that saved them another trip to Praia to face Cape Verde. NCS and Fuba pulled ropes until seven days to the tournament when Dr. Bernard Patrick Ogwel handed over a sack containing Shs340m to Fuba president Nasser Sserunjogi. With no training at all, the team left for Kigali and straight into quarantine since Uganda was one of the countries on the red list across the border due to a rise in Covid-19 cases at the time.

 In the end, it took the intervention of the Commander of Land Forces Muhoozi Kainerugaba with Shs188m for the team to clear bills in Kigali. 

Silverbacks shine

When the Afrobasket tipped off in Kigali, the Silverbacks meant business and registered their biggest win ever by beating Nigeria 80-68 to qualify for the quarterfinals. 

Arthur Kaluma and his brother Adam Seiko lit up the stage on their first major tournament for Uganda while Ishmail Wainright emphasized how good he can be.

A 79-71 loss to Cape Verde in the quarterfinals saw Uganda finish sixth to leave Kigali with heads high. By qualifying for Afrobasket, the team also made the cut to take part in the qualifiers to the 2023 Fiba World Cup.

The team only left Uganda for Benguela, Angola a few hours to the start of the tournament.

Players only met in the hotel lobby on the way to the first game while Robinson Opong was in transit.

Such was the disorganization in the team and the loss to Mali was inevitable. The team recovered to beat Cape Verde but lost to Nigeria.

With three games still to come at this stage of qualifiers, Uganda will have to maintain third place to progress to the next round.

After missing out on league basketball in 2020, Fuba made efforts to see the 2021 season start early.

The league, however, got affected by an increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the different camps and the season was halted and later cancelled.

Our Saviour and Tropical Royals made it to the top flight while Livingstone and Miracle Eagles will play Division One Basketball next season after coming out of Division Two.

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